SASKATOON — Brandon Bridge only has to ask his teammates if he needs assurances that he is changing perceptions about Canadian quarterbacks in the CFL.
Last season with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the Toronto product won his one start and came off the bench in numerous other contests completing 92-of-138 passes for 1,236 yards, 10 touchdown passes and four interceptions. He also ran the ball 20 times for 127 yards and scored one major.
During last year’s 25-21 Eastern Final loss to the eventual Grey Cup champion Toronto Argonauts, Bridge came off the bench for the Roughriders connecting on 11-of-21 passes for 141 yards and one touchdown.
With all the big plays he made in 2017, the 26-year-old kept hearing over and over again from his teammates he was sending a powerful message to aspiring quarterbacks in Canada that they can play the position in the CFL.
"If I actually failed, then it really closes the door for a lot of younger kids," said Bridge, who stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 235 pounds. "My success is definitely really important, and that is definitely what I am going to try and do. I want to leave a legacy.
"For opening up a door and changing and breaking down a barrier and having the younger generation have an opportunity, I think that means way more than having all the accolades in the world."
It’s been nearly 50 years since the last Canadian quarterback to leave a significant impact on the league, Hall of Famer Russ Jackson, retired. The Hamilton native led the Ottawa Rough Riders to three Grey Cups.
And with the Alouettes in 2015, Bridge became just the first Canadian quarterback to start behind centre in 19 years.
Under CFL rules, teams are required to have 20 Canadians on their roster with a minimum of seven as starters at any point in the game. The quarterback position doesn’t count towards that ratio, and that is something Bridge would like to see changed.
He discussed the issue with CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie in the off-season.
"Actually, it went well," said Bridge, who is one of six signal callers currently at Roughriders training camp in Saskatoon. "I just told him that we were sending a terrible message to our youth.
"The CFL wants to encourage football development, but we’re not helping our development if we don’t change this ratio and let a quarterback having a Canadian nationality actually have that opportunity to actually play quarterback."
Last December, Bridge signed a one-year contract extension to remain with the Roughriders. At the time, it appeared he might be a favourite to be the club’s starting quarterback.
That changed in early January when the Roughriders made a trade with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to acquire veteran starter Zach Collaros and signed him to a restructured contract.
Even with Collaros on the Roughriders roster, Bridge said he has to play as if he is trying to win the starting job.
"Obviously, every day I am going to have to compete no matter what, even if Zach (Collaros) wasn’t here," said Bridge. "I would just still compete and still put my best foot forward, because there are other guys that definitely want to be the guy.
"We are all fighting for the same job, but we are all going to be supportive and help each other out."
Bridge elected to remain with the Roughriders because of his comfort level with head coach and general manager Chris Jones. The signal caller believes he has a legitimate chance to prove himself under Jones.
"It is, ‘Can you throw the football from point A to point B?’ that is all that matters," said Bridge. "That is why I respect coach (Chris) Jones a lot.
"It is, ‘Can you catch the ball? Can you run? Can you throw? Can you play football?’ And that is what it all comes down to."
Jones hasn’t anointed anyone at Roughriders training camp as the starting quarterback. Going into the Roughriders first pre-season game on Sunday in Edmonton against the Eskimos, a number of regulars aren’t expected to play much if at all. It is expected B.J. Daniels, David Watford and Marquise Williams will see the bulk of the action at quarterback over Collaros and Bridge.
University of Saskatchewan Huskies backup quarterback Mason Nyhus is at camp as part of the CFL’s Canadian quarterback internship program.
"We’ll let you all know tomorrow what we plan on doing quarterback wise," said Jones after practice at Saskatoon Minor Football Field on Friday. "There are not going to be any secrets in what we do.
"We’ve got guys to evaluate. We’re going to get a good solid look at all of our guys."
Jones said he liked how his offensive veterans played on Friday but wasn’t overly satisfied with the performance of his squad.
"Overall team wise, I didn’t think this was one of our stronger days," said Jones. "In fact, I thought it was probably the flattest day that we’ve had. We have to find a way to show up every single day."